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Top 100 prospect Makinde London commits to Xavier

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When the realignment dominoes fell more than a few people wondered what would happen with the reconstituted Big East, especially in regards to the caliber of prospect the ten schools would be able to recruit. Well the conference has done quite well for itself on the recruiting trail this offseason, and on Wednesday Xavier landed its third verbal commitment in the 2014 class with four-star power forward/center Makinde London announcing his decision to attend the school according to multiple outlets (subscription required).

London, a native of Spring Hill, Tenn., is a 6-foot-10 big man who attends Montverde Academy in Florida and saw his recruitment gain steam thanks to an 8-inch growth spurt. Weighing 195, London will have to bulk up some in preparation for the college game, but he’s expected to be a factor for a program that needed additional interior depth.

London took his official visit to Xavier less than two weeks ago, and with his decision to commit London joins guards J.P. Macura and Edmond Sumner in head coach Chris Mack’s 2014 recruiting haul. Add in Indiana transfer Remy Abell, who will sit out the 2013-14 campaign per NCAA transfer rules, and the Musketeers have a nice quartet to add to the program.

With forward Isaiah Philmore (7.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) entering his final season, adding London to the mix will certainly help Xavier from a depth standpoint. London will join redshirt junior Matt Stainbrook (11.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg in 2011-12 at Western Michigan), redshirt freshman Jalen Reynolds (sat out the 2012-13 season as a non-qualifier) and sophomore James Farr in Xavier’s interior rotation in 2013-14.

What does London’s commitment mean for the Big East as a whole? He’s another talented prospect headed to the conference, which has seen a number of its members reel in quality prospects this summer. Of course Seton Hall’s received a lot of attention lately with the verbal commitment of guard Isaiah Whitehead, but Georgetown (Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak and Paul White), Marquette (Sandy Cohen, Malek Harris), Providence (Jalen Lindsey, Paschal Chukwu) and Villanova (Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges) have also enjoyed a productive offseason on the recruiting trail.

Xavier guard Myles Davis undergoes minor procedure on left knee

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Xavier guard Myles Davis, one of the premier perimeter shooters in the 2012 class, was forced to sit out the entire 2012-13 season after courses he took at Notre Dame Prep were invalidated by the NCAA. So Davis, without the ability to join the Xavier basketball program, was simply a student at Xavier last season. Now eligible, Davis is expected to be a key contributor for the Musketeers as they play their inaugural season in the Big East.

Davis’ path back to the court hit a minor bump in the road however, as it was reported by Shannon Russell of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the 6-2 guard underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure to repair a mild cartilage tear in his left knee.

“We felt it was best to take care of it now,” said Dr. Robert Burger, who added that surgery went well.

“He should be able to resume some basketball activities within a few weeks and we hope and expect that he will be 100 percent for the start of the season.”

Xavier wasn’t a bad three-point shooting team last season as their percentage of 35% ranked sixth in the Atlantic 10. But it can be argued that the percentage was in part a result of Chris Mack’s team not taking many shots from deep. The Musketeers’ 400 attempts ranked 15th in the Atlantic 10, and their 140 made three-pointers ranked 14th in the conference.

Adding Myles to the fold has the potential to open up driving lanes for point guard Semaj Christon, who was one of the best freshmen in the A-10 last season. The Musketeers return three of their top four scorers from last season’s 17-14 squad, including guard Dee Davis and wing Justin Martin.

No. 16 Saint Louis fails to clinch share of A-10 title with overtime loss to Xavier

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Despite clawing back from seven points down in the final 4:40 of regulation to force overtime, No. 16 Saint Louis could not keep pace with Xavier in extra period and fell, 77-66, at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday night.

The loss snaps and 11-game Saint Louis winning streak and keeps the Billikens from claiming at least a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season title with one game remaining. They are now tied atop the conference with Virginia Commonwealth at 12-4, but could fall into a three-way tie depending upon the winner of their final game of the regular season Saturday against La Salle.

If La Salle wins, it would move to 12-5, tied with Saint Louis. That would leave the door open for VCU to win the title outright with a win over Temple and finish at 13-4, or we could have a three-way tie atop the conference with a La Salle win and a VCU loss.

It’s all only par for the course in the Atlantic 10, a conference that already has five teams with 22+ wins on the season and if UMass wins its final two games, would have six teams reach the 20-win plateau. That all sets the stage for the A-10 tournament that will take place next week at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

In that tournament, any one of those 20-win teams could win it all and grab the automatic bid, not to mention the havoc (no relation to VCU) that we could see from upset-minded teams like Richmond, Charlotte, St. Joseph’s, and Xavier.

Get ready, Brooklyn.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Late Night Snacks: Minnesota helps solidify its tourney spot by knocking off No. 1

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Game of the Day: Minnesota 77, No. 1 Indiana 73

Indiana has now lost three times this season as a No. 1-ranked team, but the story is more about Minnesota. Coach Tubby Smith brought in a sports psychologist to talk to his team prior to Tuesday’s matchup and it paid off. The Gophers were focused and played with energy, led by senior Trevor Mbakwe’s 21 points and twelve rebounds.

The defense was able to disrupt Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell, and Christian Watford for most of the game and seal it down the stretch. Minnesota is No. 1 in strength of schedule for a reason. Being in the Big Ten adds to that. But Tuesday’s win is a big boost to a team that was likely already in the NCAA tournament, thus helping to solidify their spot.

Important Outcomes

1. Tennessee 64, No. 8 Florida 58

The Volunteers needed a signature win on their resume and got it Tuesday. By getting a win over a Top 10 team, Cuonzo Martin’s squad now shifts to sit squarely on the bubble. Their final three regular season games are favorable, too. Tennessee plays Georgia and Auburn on the road before returning home to host Missouri.

2. Xavier 64, No. 19 Memphis 62

Memphis has looked impressive against Conference USA this season. The key there is “against Conference USA.” As soon as Josh Pastner’s team got an opportunity against a non-conference for the first time in nearly two months, we saw shades of the Memphis team that dropped out of the Top 25 early in the year. Going 6-of-18 from the free throw line certainly did not help.

3. No. 17 Wisconsin 77, Nebraska 46

Wisconsin is taking care of business. The Badgers are currently tied for second in the Big Ten with Michigan State and have Purdue and Penn State in their final three regular season games, along with the Spartans. Those are two very winnable games, plus another that will be a battle. Or, as we say, par for the course in the nation’s best conference.

Starred

1. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota (21 points, 12 rebounds) 

From the opening minutes, Mbakwe was beating up Indiana on the interior. His vicious block on Cody Zeller set the tone and his energy was sustained throughout, helping his team to a big win. It’s the kind of lead-by-example display that you might come to expect from a senior leader.

2. Jordan McRae, Tennessee (27 points, seven rebounds, four assists) 

Tennessee, much like Minnesota, had a chance for a signature win Tuesday and got it. What Mbakwe was to the Gophers, McRae was to the Volunteers. He had a stellar first half with 17 points, but kept his foot on the pedal for another 10 in the second to help Tennessee close out and get the win.

3. Jerrelle Benimon, Towson (31 points, seven rebounds, four assists)

Benimon will be the CAA’s Player of the Year and deservedly so. In a game that his team needed to retain second place in the conference, he came up big. Twenty-two of his 31 points came in the first half and he led the Tigers to an 85-81 overtime victory.

Struggled

1. Cody Zeller, Indiana (9 points, 2-of-9 FG)

Zeller was tentative against Minnesota and that could be a cause for concern for Indiana as the Hoosiers come down the back stretch of the Big Ten schedule and into the postseason. He was bothered inside by the energy from Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe, as well as the length of Rodney Williams. Simply put, the Hoosiers need Zeller to be an elite complement to swingman Victor Oladipo if they want to win in March.

2. Memphis from the Free Throw Line (6-of-18)

In a game that ended up coming down to two points, shooting 33 percent from the free throw line is the easiest problem to highlight. The Tigers typically shoot around 69 percent from the line, but Tuesday night was abysmal. The result is a team without a big-time win who got exposed by a non-conference opponent.

3. Florida’s Depth Issues

The Gators essentially played with a six-man rotation in their loss to Tennessee on Tuesday night. Added to that, swingman Casey Prather had to leave the game late in the second half after a collision left his head bloodied. This will continue to be a major concern for Florida moving into March, especially against teams that can work the interior and wear down the Gators inside.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Xavier to auction off game-worn Sandy Hook jerseys to benefit victims of school shooting

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Xavier did not take the floor Saturday against Wofford in its traditional navy blue and white uniforms. Instead, the Musketeers wore white and green jerseys with “Sandy Hook” stitched across the chest (pictured at right) to honor the victims of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut last week.

Not only will Xavier wear the uniforms, but the jerseys will be auctioned off online to benefit the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, according to CBSSports.com.

This is one of many public displays in support of or related to the tragedy in Connecticut that have sprung up in its wake. Ed Cooley’s Providence team wore green and white uniforms Tuesday against Colgate. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Wofford coach Pat Kelsey spoke at their team’s respective postgame press conferences about gun control, as well.

After the game, the auction will take place at GoXavier.com.

(Photo via Xavier Athletics)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

No criminal charges to be filed against former Xavier forward Dezmine Wells

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No criminal charges will be filed against former Xavier forward Dezmine Wells, Shannon Russell of the Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting.

According to a release from Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, the case being reviewed involved allegations of sexual assault against Wells, who was expelled from Xavier earlier this month.

“We always take allegations of this nature very seriously,” Deters said in the release. “I assigned senior assistant prosecutors to this case to review all of the evidence and to conduct a complete presentation to the Hamilton County Grand Jury.

“After this office conducted an independent review of all of the evidence, it was presented to a Grand Jury yesterday. The Grand Jury declined to charge Dezmine Wells with any criminal offense.”

As for Wells’ expulsion from the school, reports say it was for a “serious violation” of the school’s conduct policy, reportedly of a sexual nature.

Wells, a North Carolina native, averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game this past season for Xavier and was named to the Atlantic-10 all-rookie team.

Last season he was suspended four games for his part in the on-court brawl that took place between Cincinnati and Xavier in December. With his departure, coach Chris Mack’s team has now lost all five starters from a team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2011-12.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_